US Capitol
Bipartisan legislation would include food safety review when foreign firms acquire US food companies.

WASHINGTON – US Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced legislation that would give US Dept. of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) leaders permanent seats on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an inter-agency body authorized to review proposed foreign acquisitions of US companies for potential national security concerns.

The “Food Security is National Security Act of 2017”comes amid “aggressive acquisitions” of US agriculture and food companies. The bill also includes criteria related to agriculture and food for the committee to consider when reviewing transactions in addition to USDA and FDA representation. The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union (NFU) voiced support for the legislation.

“Potential impacts on global and domestic food security should be a primary consideration for those tasked with ensuring our national security,” Roger Johnson, president of the NFU said in a statement. “As we’re seeing across the world, food shortages and disputes are leading to massive international crises. Without stability and certainty in our food systems, we can expect similar crises on our own soil.”

The NFU pointed to the acquisition of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui and ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta as examples of threats to domestic food security. “In the case of biotech, it transfers critical technologies to foreign entities,” Johnson said. “In meat processing, it has disrupted trade markets, giving foreign competitors an unfair advantage.”

 Grassley emphasized the importance of considering who will control the food supply as the global population continues to grow.

“Today, there may not be a food shortage in the world, only distribution problems that are more the result of politics not logistics, but in the decades to come, it may be a different story,” Grassley said. “The approval by CFIUS of the sale of US agricultural assets seems more focused on the present state of the food industry instead of the future supply situation. We owe it to our farmers and Americans who rely on farmers to grow their food to be more strategic – especially as countries around the world are making moves to ensure adequate supplies.”

Stabenow said in a statement that foreign acquisitions of US food and agriculture companies must face additional scrutiny. “…This bill ensures that the US has the appropriate tools and people in place to safeguard America’s food security, food safety, biosecurity, and the highly competitive US farm sector as a whole,” she said.